I’m writing this post for two reasons. First it’s to announce an event which autism families might take an interest in—a chance to protest the proposed changes to the “bible of psychiatry,” the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5, which may go into effect in 2013. Secondly, I’m writing to bridge a gap between causes which otherwise share a lot of common ground.
On May 5th, a reform psychiatric organization called Mindfreedom has organized a rally in Philadelphia and a march to “occupy” the American Psychiatric Association, which is holding its ritzy, drug industry funded yearly convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. MindFreedom states that it represents those who say they have been harmed or even helped by organized psychiatry but find that recent proposed changes to the DSM will lead to increased practices of over or wrongful diagnoses and over-medicating with drugs that carry severe side effects. Among the scheduled speakers will be activist attorney Jim Gottstein, founder of Psychrights, who lobbies against forced institutionalization and drugging and exposed the dangers of atypical antipsychotics frequently prescribed for individuals with autism.
Autism parents have trouble enough attending their own dental appointments much less rallies but the way this event is organized, there is nothing to stop anyone from carrying a sign protesting the proposed changes the DSM’s autism category. There is also an occupy rally in Boston on the same day in solidarity with the Philadelphia event.
As far as what the “occupy” umbrella means, no one has been able to figure that out yet, though the Occupy Wall Street organizers clearly stated several demands:
The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create [fake] derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.
No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.
Occupy has been associated with a liberal bent, but according to Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, this is not strictly the case:
I can’t speak for the people out there because I don’t know who they are or exactly what they are demonstrating against…I can argue the case for their right to express their outright frustration with what is going on. Some are liberals and some are conservatives and some are libertarians and some are strict constitutionalists. And if you read carefully over what I’ve written over the past 10 or 15 years, I talk a lot about this, that eventually we will go bankrupt.
In other words, political constituency is no obstacle in participating— for the time being, “occupy” is what you make of it.
Most in the autism community have probably seen coverage of how the proposed changes to the DSM’s autism diagnosis would impact individuals with autism and it’s not a pretty picture. Many believe the proposed changes to the autism diagnosis were designed to reduce the appearance of a genuine rise in the disorder in order to squelch public alarm. The proposed changes to autism criteria would eliminate about three quarters of those currently diagnosed according to one study.
At first glance it would seem our concerns are precisely reverse from those of psychiatric reform groups—psychiatric reform groups are concerned with overdiagnosis of certain conditions and the autism community is concerned about a scheme to underdiagnose the condition in question. But the concerns of the autism community come full circle, since individuals who are “booted out” of the autism diagnosis would then be shoved into other diagnostic categories such as “social communication disorder.” This vague and generalized “SCD” appears to have already been matched up with corresponding drugs in the pipeline promising to “improve socialization” in autism. Of particular concern is the new class of exceptionally dangerous glutamate antipsychotics, though old, off-patent drugs may gain a new profitable life as they’re re-patented for autism.